Pendle Peat Pie is a new regional dish developed by environment artist Kerry Morrison and local cook Andrew Dean, in conversation with Sarah Robinson, a conservationist and ecologist.
This culinary collaboration promotes awareness of the value of peat and peat restoration on Pendle Hill, opening up a dialogue about cultural traditions and the landscape.
Illustrations by Frankie Turk
The pie is a take on curry and chips. A pastry crust base filled with a brown lentil dhal (the peat) and chips (the coir logs). The pie is topped with a layer of miso jelly and spinach to represent water retention and new plant growth.
The pud is a rich dark chocolate pudding made with dark rye bread and seeds (representing seeds trapped and preserved in the peat layers) and sprinkled with pistachio Barfi (a Pakistani milk sweet). The pudding is served warm and when served, a rich chocolate sauce seeps out. Squidgy, dark, dense, anaerobic earth: Peat, with a sprinkle of new vegetative growth.
The idea arose from a personal curiosity Kerry had about food named after places, for example, Eccles cakes, Chorley cake, Dundee cake, Bakewell Tart, Shrewsbury biscuits, and so on. Could we raise awareness about the value of peat through creating a Pendle culinary treat with the potential to become synonymous with the area and moreover, peat restoration? And if so, what would this food look like and taste like?
They played around with ideas for sound, look, texture, story, and taste. They also discussed culture, specifically food culture within east Lancashire. All are equally important and all needed addressing if the Pendle food we were about to create was to reach out to the different communities living in the region. There is no point creating a new food if no one wants to try it or if it doesn’t fit with the regional palette.
The story of Peat as a recipe for a regional dish
We often overlook the value of Peat. Healthy peat holds rainwater, which helps to prevent flooding in the valleys below. Healthy peat is a unique habitat for wildlife. Healthy peat is a carbon sink and holds more CO2 than a forest.
There are many issues connected to exposed peat, including loss of habitat for wildlife. Laid bare to the elements, rain is washing the bare peat away the wind is blowing the bare peat away. As this happens, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere CO2: a greenhouse gas. CO2 escaping into the atmosphere exasperates climate change. Peat being washed away enters watercourses depositing peat particles that suffocate fish eggs, thus reducing the number of fishes in rives, for example, brown trout. As the peat disappears, so does its ability to hold water. Rainwater flows down the hill and in downpours can cause flash flooding.
The restoration process is currently underway on Pendle Hill. Large Coir logs (made from the outer hush fibres of the coconut) have been placed across the channels creating dams to trap peat silt as it flows downhill. In a short period of time, around a year, peat silt builds up behind the coir logs creating a new reformed layer or bed of peat. These smooth, flat, surfaces, the depth of a coir log, (50cm) are being replanted with cotton grass, mosses and heather the peat blanket. The exposed peat hags have been flattened and spread out and replanted with cotton grass, mosses and heather. The bare peat, covered with a thin planting of cotton grass and a layer of heather brash cuttings - which contains seeds and mosses - is transformed from dark brown and exposed to shades of greens and browns formed by the new vegetation.
The habitat is being restored.
When Covid hit at the time of putting the pie into production, what came as a frustrating set back on the project itself, was also an indicator of the precocity of situations of others in the process, as we watched the impact of the pandemic hit local food producers and businesses lined up to manufacture the pie for local distribution, including the folding of the award winning local pie producer.
And so in Autumn 2021, the original pie recipe was released into the world for people to create their own versions of the dish, and it is now on the menu at local cafe Hamish’s in Blacko, with more venues lined up to add this as their vegan option and to highlight this local take on positive climate action.
Whether the pie takes off as a new (vegan) regional dish is yet to be seen. Now with a life of its own in the world, the initial idea and creative collaboration were just the beginning, and the freely shared pie recipe may take on a new journeys of its own, depending on where it lands.
Commissioned by In-Situ as part of The Gatherings. It is funded by Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership